You’ve just welcomed a pet into your home for the first time. Congratulations! You are part of a growing number of compassionate people who open their hearts and households to animals, many of which come from local shelters, humane societies, and animal care centers here in Hampton Roads. This will be an exciting time, and my veterinary colleagues and I want to help you acclimate to your new role as a pet parent by offering a little advice to get you started.
Start by cultivating a good relationship with your local general veterinarian. An important first step as a pet owner is to schedule a first-time wellness exam with a veterinary clinic soon after bringing your companion home. Even if your pet is already up to date on its vaccines and preventative care, this will give you a chance to discuss important topics such as socialization, nutrition, integrating the pet into your family, and preventative needs going forward.
At the same time, you can decide whether the veterinarian will be a good fit for your family. It will also save time should an emergency situation arises, as it will be easier for your primary veterinarian to help if you already have this relationship established.
Here are a few more tips to help you and your pet enjoy a mutually rewarding relationship.
Be a responsible pet owner.
There are so many important aspects of owning a pet—from providing exercise, a healthy diet, and a clean sleeping/living area to socializing them with people and other animals. You will also want to pet proof your home and outside area to keep them safe and from running away, provide training, and clean up after them. It’s also important to spay or neuter your pet as soon as it’s old enough. And give them plenty of love!
Plan ahead for emergency care.
Set aside money now to cover future emergencies. Consider a pet insurance plan; save funds in a bank account; or sign up for payment plans such as CareCredit, which allows qualifying pet owners to pay their veterinary bills over time. Ask your primary veterinarian to help you make a list of animal clinics or resources that are available after hours so you know who to call if there is an emergency.
Honor your appointments.
Recently, veterinary clinics have been extremely busy, with some booking appointments three-to-four weeks out. Planning ahead will help us make sure we can provide care for as many pets as possible. If you are running late or can’t make your appointment, call ahead to let your veterinary provider know. It will free up the time slot so another patient can be seen.
Keep your pet safe and healthy.
- Maintain regular veterinary wellness checkups to keep your pet in optimal health.
- Make sure your pet has an ID tag and/or microchip with your most up-to-date information.
- Secure your pets in a crate or harness when driving, and keep windows rolled up.
- Closely supervise and manage any interaction between dogs that are unfamiliar with each other.
- Leash your dog when walking, and follow leash laws that are posted in public areas. If you’re struggling with leash manners with your new pet, ask your veterinarian about recommendations for local trainers to help.
- Keep small toys, socks, and other items away from dogs and cats to avoid accidental swallowing.
- Recognize that certain breeds are prone to heritable diseases and conditions, and keep an eye out for related symptoms. These are good things to research before purchasing a pet.
Veterinary practices in Hampton Roads have been seeing a flurry of furry new faces, with some clinics experiencing as much as a 30 percent increase in new pet patients. With so many new paws to shake, it may take a little longer for your pet to be seen. We assure you the wait will be worth it, and we appreciate your patience and understanding.
Dr. Ashley Powell, DVM, is president of the Coastal Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, an organization that provides support to the region’s veterinary community. When she’s not seeing her amazing pet patients at Animal Medical Center of Virginia Beach, she enjoys riding horses, traveling, and spending times with her dog, Barley, and cats, Vinnie, Citra and Rillo.